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Council tenants owe £3m in rent

Sandwell | News | Published:

More than £3 million is owed to Sandwell Council in rent arrears by 10,000 residents.

Finance bosses today warned there would be action against those who refused to pay.

At the end of June, £3,055,081.85 was owed to the council by 10,905 tenants but council chiefs say arrears have been around the £3 million mark for some time.

Councillor Steve Eling, finance chief at the council, said they have to consider how to go about collecting the money, but issued a warning to those who refuse to pay.

He said: "We understand that some people are struggling with multiple debts and a lot of the time they are in debt with payday lenders who charge astronomical amounts.

"With those people we have to make sure we try to help them so they can manage their debts and prevent them from getting into more debt.

"However, unfortunately, there are some people who just don't want to pay and we do what we can to get the money back from them."

He said the amount of money owed to the council was just a small percentage of the money they are paid as landlords.

"You have got to look at it in the right context," he added. "The total amount of money we get from rent is around £100 million so it is just a small percentage that is outstanding and that is a reasonable figure.

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Emergency

"We have not seen the need for draconian measures because of rent arrears. The figure has been static for some time now, so there is no need for us to take emergency action."

Reforms such as the 'bedroom tax' and the introduction of a benefit cap which came into force last year have been blamed for people falling behind on their payments.

Councillor Eling said: "It is probably reasonably good going considering the bedroom tax issue.

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"Some councils have seen rent collections reduce in recent years but ours has stayed reasonably static."

However UKIP Councillor Phil Garrett said while he understands people in the borough may be struggling to pay for their rent, something should be done to help bring the cost down.

He said: "The easiest answer to this in terms of in a thought process would be to lower rent.

"People are struggling and help is needed, but it doesn't help when the council increase rent by more than the rate of inflation."

Earlier this year, the cash-strapped council approved an average rise of 3.8 per cent in rent costs across the borough.

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